At The College of Wooster, you will meet someone you disagree with. Most of these disagreements will be superficial, from what meals you enjoy, to what sports teams you support, to what your favorite Shawn Mendes album is. Some of these disagreements, however, will be much more near to you as a person. Your political beliefs, your faiths, your least favorite Shawn Mendes album, your very way of life: they will be challenged. And it’s scary. Coming from a school where 95 percent of the student body were white men who practiced Catholicism — though I was myself Puerto Rican and not practicing any religion — I was in for a culture shock. And in response to these new stimuli impacting your life, I will give you advice I wish someone had given me: use this time to find and develop yourself.
You will find that you are surrounded by 500 or so people who are most likely just as unsure of the world around them as you. It’s daunting to go out and meet just one of those people, and even then, you probably will not stray from your comfort zone in terms of who you hang out with. That is why I want to challenge you to do just that. Explore your new surroundings; engage in discussions; go out and mingle. Let me put it this way: if you went to, say, Japan on holiday, and then spent all of your time in your hotel and the local McDonald’s, you would be blowing an opportunity to learn something about a culture you have no idea about.
I understand the fear that to express yourself in a world that’s foreign sets you up for failure. “What if I’m wrong, and what if people hate me for it?” you most likely ask yourself. That’s right; I’m psychic. Anyway, I want to let you in on a secret: it is a-OK to be wrong. If you are discussing a sensitive topic with someone, and you say something that you may not have even realized is wrong, it gives you an opportunity to learn. For certain topics, race as an example, your first instinct is to avoid discussion, and to give lines such as “I don’t see race.” But when you don’t see race, you choose to not see the perspectives of others who, because of the color of their skin and all that comes with that distinction, have experienced a different world than you. That goes for all identities, for all belief systems and for all topics you may try to ignore because you were afraid.
Throughout however long you spend here — be it four years, one year, six years or anything in between — you have a prime opportunity to develop not only your resume, but your personality and world experience. If you are to do anything for your time at Wooster, it should be to challenge yourself. If you don’t change, you are just a high schooler playing adult, and no one wants that.
Brandon Borges, a Contributing Writer for the Voice, can be reached for comment at BBorges19@wooster.edu.